Are your teens locked in their room all day? Do your littles want you to play with them constantly? Is scheduling time with your partner like finding a needle in a haystack? Are you at your wits’ end on how to change things?
Why Setting Intentions Is Important
Don’t let this year go by the same way last year did. Take control by setting intentions and make this year be the year you guide your family down a better path.
To create that path, it’s important to reflect first and find out why things have been going the way they’ve been going. Once you’ve reflected and have asked why things have been happening the way they have, then you’ll be ready to use the strategy below for setting intentions.
When you know the reasons behind things, then you’ll be able to figure out how best to move forward. That’s why reflecting is so important for setting intentions.
We’re purposely using the word intention instead of resolution (even though it’s January) because intentions are usually set around creating abundance and, therefore, have a positive connotation. You’re not correcting something that is wrong (like resolutions seem to focus on) but improving something that you’re already doing (like becoming a better parent by reading our blog).
Creating Actions from Your Intentions
You can improve this year by turning your intentions into actions by following three simple steps: Make, Share, Do.
- Make your list of intentions. Make sure they are realistic and can be implemented with support. More on that below. Write them down. If you’re new to this, make a short list, only 3 or 4. Too many can be overwhelming.
- Share your intentions with someone who cares about you, and ask them to help you achieve them by checking up on you. (This is the most important step of the process. Without the support of someone who cares, continuing with your intentions throughout the year will be harder.) Maybe they’ll make intentions with you and share their list with you, so you can check up on each other. It always helps when you are accountable to someone besides yourself.
- Do make time each day (or week) to work on each one.
Questions to Ask when Setting Intentions
If you took the time to reflect, the hard work is already done. Let’s say our questions at the beginning of the post are our reflections about last year and use them as our examples to see how reflecting leads us to our intentions. You can read more about the Why Approach that we’ll use and this process in Confident Parents Make Time for Reflection and This.
1. My teen is locked in their room all day.
When we ask ourselves why about the situation, we realize that it’s developmentally appropriate for our child as a teenager to want more privacy and not want to talk with us like they used to. This results in them spending their time in their room. Why does this bother me? Because I miss spending time with my child and talking with them like I do at dinner. We can then see that we need to focus on what we can do to invite more interaction with them. We can also see that having a family dinner is working. We then decide we will have a family game night each week and will continue having family dinners.
2. My little one wants me to play with them constantly.
When we ask ourselves why, we realize that they want connection and are bored. Why do they want connection? Because that’s the stage they’re at and they’re learning how to do things and interact with other people and they learn that by watching me and copying me. Why are they bored? Because I entertain them when they keep asking. Why do I entertain them? Because it’s easier than dealing with a tantrum, and sometimes I just don’t want to have to do what I need to be doing. When we keep asking ourselves why, we might end up deciding that we need to help our child learn to entertain themselves and will create a toy bin for different days of the week that only come out when I need to get some work done.
3. Scheduling time with your partner is like trying to find a needle in a haystack.
Why is it so difficult? Because my partner and I both have a busy schedule and when you add in the kids’ schedules, we barely have time to see each other for a shared dinner as a family. Why do we see each other at dinner? Because my partner has blocked it off on their calendar. We can then see that we need to block off time in our schedules for time together during the day before other things get scheduled.
From the examples, we end up with the things that went well and the things that didn’t go well:
Things that went well:
- We will continue to have family dinners.
- My partner will continue to block off family dinner time on their schedule.
Things that didn’t go well:
- We will start having a family game night each week.
- I will deal with tantrums when they happen and stop trying to avoid them.
- I will stop procrastinating and get my work done when it needs to be done.
- I will create a toy bin for each day of the week that I need to get things done.
- We will start scheduling time as a couple and get the time blocked off on our calendars before we schedule other things.
How to Start Setting Intentions
Your intentions will most likely come from the “things that went well” and “things that didn’t go well” categories. You can, of course, always add things that weren’t included in your reflections. If you didn’t get a chance to reflect, that’s okay. There’s no time like the present! Download our free guide to get started.
If your partner also took time to Pause and Reflect, you can combine your list with theirs at this point. They may have some of the same reflections. If not, that’s okay. Just combine them. Then create a copy for each of you to independently label each item with an A, B, or C.
A means that it is a must do for the year. B means that it is a want to do for the year. C means that it is something you want to do after the As and Bs are done.
You cannot say everything is an A. Try to break the number of each letter up evenly. For our example, we have 7 items on our list. That means there can be 3 As, 2 Bs, and 2 Cs. The As would then become your intentions for the year.
If you combine your list with your partner, you may end up with more items. If you have 20 items, then you’d end up with 7 As, 7 Bs, and 6 Cs. To come up with only 3 or 4 intentions, you’ll have to prioritize your As until you’ve narrowed them down to just 3 or 4. Focus on the most important ones first.
Your Actions Create Your Path
Start by creating your list. If your partner also sets intentions, then step 2, Share, will be much easier to do. If not, that’s okay. You can still share your intentions with your partner and ask them to help keep you accountable. When we’ve shared our intentions, we’re more likely to follow through with them and accomplish what we set out to do. When it has to do with your family, your partner (and even your kids) is the best person to root for you and help you succeed.
From our list, let’s say we decide our As are continuing to have family dinners, continuing to block off family dinner time on our partner’s schedule, and starting a family game night each week. These are the things we will start the year off with. When they happen without thought, then we’ll move on to our Bs: we will start blocking off time on our schedules for time together as a couple and I will create a toy bin for each day of the week. And finally, the Cs: I will deal with tantrums and stop procrastinating.
By knowing what we want to work on and what we’ll be doing to make each happen, we have our action items and the path we’ll take. This will help the New Year be better than the previous and make sure we’re no longer at our wits’ end, at least not for the same reasons (and if you are for new situations, you now know how to change that).
By creating intentions, instead of resolutions, you’ll be doing better than 80% of the population out there (that end up giving up on their resolutions by the second week of February). You’ll also be changing the course your family takes this year and making your life, your relationship with your partner, and your relationship with your kids better. Remember, just follow our three simple steps: Make, Share, Do.
Rick Stephens is a co-founder of Raising Families. With 33 years of experience as a top-level executive at The Boeing Company and having raised four children of his own, he is able to support parents and grandparents by incorporating his knowledge of business, leadership, and complex systems into the family setting. In his “free time” Rick enjoys road biking, scuba diving, visiting his grandkids, and generally trying to figure out which time zone he’s in this week. Read full bio >>